Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Moyra Bond

Moyra Bond, who died on February 9 aged 95, was the author of the Bond Assessment Papers, which contain sample tests in English, Mathematics and Verbal Reasoning. 

 Moyra Bond
Moyra Bond

The books have sold millions of copies worldwide since first being published in 1964, but until recently readers knew their author only as JM Bond, unaware even that she was a woman.
An article in The Times in 2001 about how to write a bestseller mentioned Bond alongside JK Rowling and Joanna Trollope: “JM Bond is the creator of such titles as 3rd Year Mathematics Assessment Papers, a sequel to the equally gripping 2nd Year Mathematics Assessment Papers. He [sic] is the living proof that there are many ways to achieve bookshop stardom.”
Jean Moyra Bell was born in Norfolk on July 21 1915, the daughter of a laundry manager, and educated locally. She did not attend university, and her first employment was a clerical job in Barclays Bank. Her main claim to fame in those days was swimming, in which she represented both Barclays and the county of Norfolk.
In 1938 she married Raymond Bond, also a Barclays employee, with whom she had two sons. They moved to Swanage, Dorset, in 1946 and Moyra decided to train as a teacher, qualifying at Weymouth College.
Her husband died in 1956 and, two years later, after several jobs teaching Mathematics, she raised the money to buy Avalon, a girls’ preparatory school at West Kirby on the Wirrall. She soon developed this into one of the most successful schools in the north-west.
While the whole country had to contend with the unpopular 11-plus examination, her own local authority also operated an additional 10-plus exam so that pupils’ progress over their final two years in junior school could be assessed. As this extra test was unique to Cheshire, however, there were no books of sample questions to help teachers and pupils prepare for it.
Moyra Bond made up her own questions, writing them on slips of paper and reading them out to her classes. She developed these into a series of test papers and sent them off to Nelson’s (now Nelson Thorne), the educational publisher. Nelson’s not only decided to publish them but also asked her to develop a comprehensive range of books for pupils aged eight to 11. English and Verbal Reasoning were included as well as the original Mathematics.
The first books were published in 1964. At that time, the publishers felt that a female author of a school textbook might deter possible buyers; her name was given as the genderless JM Bond, and the title page described her as “Principal” rather than “Headmistress” of Avalon School. It was not until 2007 that she was “outed” as female.
The books have been through several editions as Moyra Bond revised them to keep them relevant to successive generations of students. More recently, the books have been thoroughly updated (in some cases, by other writers) to conform with today’s National Curriculum. The books are now known as Bond Assessment Papers and have sold as far afield as Australia, Canada, Indonesia and South Africa .
“What with developing new titles and constantly updating existing ones, they have taken over a large part of my life,” Moyra Bond said in 1974. “But it has all been worthwhile.” By the end of her life the books were earning her around £100,000 a year.
She found her inspiration for her questions almost everywhere: calculating the change when buying things in shops; small “adventures” such as her car breaking down; and listening to typical conversations among her pupils. Friends and family members found their names appearing in her questions.
She was headmistress of Avalon from 1958 until 1981, when she retired from teaching. In retirement she was able to spend more time on another of her passions, photography. She settled first at Heswall in the Wirral, then moved to Surrey to be near her family.
Moyra Bond is survived by her two sons.

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